Students need to know who will be teaching their classes

Makenna Jonker

Editor's note: This column has been edited to remove a link to an outside source alleging professor misconduct.

Halfway through the spring semester of 2019, I walked into my Medicine, Ethics, and Society class to find out from the student next to me that our professor was found guilty of sexual misconduct. 

I felt disgusted, horrified and deeply uncomfortable even looking at my professor, Sahotra Sarkar. I go to class expecting to be free of the catcalls I hear constantly on the street, the unwelcome touching I experience at parties and reminders of the sexual harassment that I and millions of others have faced.

However, when you find out the person teaching your class has been found guilty of sexual misconduct, class no longer feels like the safe space it should be.

Before students even register for a class, they need to know who will be teaching it. UT’s course schedule must list all professors teaching each class and note whether or not a professor has been found guilty of sexual misconduct.

I felt like I had no power to amend my situation because the University already knew what he did and had only suspended him for a semester.

After student protests throughout the 2019-2020 school year, former President Greg Fenves released a statement saying the University would implement policies to ensure the faculty and staff found guilty of sexual misconduct would be fired. I was satisfied and thought convicted faculty would finally be held accountable and student safety would become UT’s  first priority — I was wrong.

Although UT terminated four staffers, there are still some professors and staff members who were found guilty of sexual misconduct and have not been fired. If UT will not fire past abusers, they can at least note in the course schedule when a course will be taught by someone found guilty of sexual misconduct. 

This summer, students who believed they had signed up for an American literature class taught solely by professor Evan Carton soon found out that they signed up for a class co-taught by Coleman Hutchison, one of the professors UT found to have violated sexual misconduct policy. 

In summer 2019 and spring 2020, the course schedule listed both professors of this class once a student clicked the unique number. However, this summer’s course schedule omitted Hutchison’s name from the schedule. 

“I think it is important for the University to list these professors on the course schedule, as it is their obligation to alert students,” government and history junior Christina Camargo said.

Kathleen Harrison, communications manager for the Office of the Executive Vice President and Provost, said in an email that the course schedule would list only the primary instructor, but if a student clicks on the course’s unique number, the schedule lists all of the professors.

However, this is demonstrably false. When a student clicks on the unique number for the summer 2020 offering of E f316M, only Professor Evan Carton is listed. This inconsistency must stop. 

Harrison said the interim president recently announced phase two of Husch Blackwell’s recommendations. One of these recommendations is that UT proactively disclose the names of faculty and staff found guilty of misconduct.

“Details on what this disclosure will look like are still being determined, but it will be accessible to the public,” Harrison said.

Unfortunately, proactive disclosure that begins in late August will not help the students who registered for their fall 2020 classes in the spring and summer. Additionally, it is unclear whether or not these disclosures will apply to those who have already been found guilty or just future cases.

Students have the right to know who is teaching the classes they pay thousands of dollars for. The solution here is simple: The course schedule must note to students if a class is taught by a faculty member who has been found guilty of sexual misconduct.

Jonker is a government and American studies senior from Flower Mound, Texas.